10 Sustainable Business Trends Shaping the Next Decade

published Jan 28, 2020
2 min read

Sustainable Business Trends

The world changes every day, and business transforms alongside it. If you own a business or want to create one, there are a few trends to watch as you enter the new decade.

Appealing to consumers is essential, and knowing what they — along with your industry peers — want to see is crucial. Sustainability takes the forefront as people grapple with ways to combat climate change and protect the planet. Check out these 10 eco-friendly business trends that will define the next few years.

1. Renewable Energy

Agencies and individuals across the world are trying to curb coal-based power. Wind, solar and bioenergy have performed as successful alternatives to harmful fuels. Expect to see businesses joining the renewable wave with solar arrays, wind turbines and biofuel-powered equipment. Lower electricity bills and tax incentives provide plenty of reasons to switch, but environmental conservation is the primary advantage.

2. Tech-Based Recycling

Have you ever wished you had a personal robot to take out your trash? Technology hasn’t gotten there yet, but developers have created robots for waste management facilities across the nation. The droids’ software uses machine learning to identify and sort plastic bottles, tin cans and more. Sorting waste by hand can be challenging for workers, but robots can work alongside them for improved recycling accuracy.

3. Electric Vehicles

New electric vehicles will be hitting the streets throughout the decade. Many people still drive cars with combustion engines, but automobile companies like Honda, Tesla and Audi have added stylish EVs to the market.

With zero emissions and lower energy consumption, EVs have become increasingly attractive to eco-conscious drivers. Even diesel-powered freight trucks are seeing sustainable upgrades, thanks to Freightliner’s developing line of green vehicles.

4. All-Natural Cosmetics

Environmentalists know the beauty industry isn’t the most eco-friendly sector, but it’s reached a turning point within recent years.

Companies are creating recyclable packaging and swapping resource-intensive ingredients for natural ones. Oleochemicals are ingredients that come from renewable sources like plants and bacteria, which developers obtain through sustainable practices. These substances are excellent substitutes for petrochemicals in conventional cosmetics.

5. Closed-Loop Supply Chains

Every level of supply chain management impacts the planet. Where do manufacturers source their materials? What happens to products after reaching the user? The closed-loop system is a viable solution to material waste and unethical sourcing. Businesses accept used goods and either recycle or reuse them to create new products.

6. Plant-Based Substitutes

Plant-based meats have exploded, with Impossible Foods introducing their soy-based burger. These products will continue to grow in prominence as people seek meatless alternatives. Agriculture counts for 9% of greenhouse emissions in the U.S., with manure management contributing 14% of methane within farming.

Researchers have encouraged people to curb their meat consumption to shrink these percentages. Plant-based diets will become increasingly attainable as more companies produce vegetable substitutes for popular animal products.

7. Remote Working and Freelancing

Upwork and Freelancers Union conducted a 2017 study that predicts 86.5 million people within the workforce will be freelancing by 2027. Remote work opportunities are also rising due to employers realising the financial and ecological benefits. Employees don’t have to commute daily, and employers can reduce their energy consumption with fewer people in the office.

8. Recycling and Reusing Goods

Many businesses that produce material goods are looking for better ways to package their wares. There’s also an emphasis on creating products from green materials — consumers want comprehensive sustainability. Companies like Unilever and PepsiCo have partnered with TerraCycle to develop waste-free, recyclable packaging.

Even toothbrushes have reusable brushes, while detergents come in multi-use containers. Consumers can extend a product’s life cycle and keep it out of overcrowded landfills — meaning less plastic pollution.

9. Giving Back Green

Numerous organisations have give-back programs where they offer charitable contributions, and green initiatives have caught much attention. Companies want to show they care about ecological issues while simultaneously learning to implement sustainable practices.

Nonprofits partner with these businesses to provide education on sustainability, and they receive benefits from the contributions and exposure. Both parties earn something valuable while working toward environmental preservation.

10. Slow Fashion

Slow fashion is the industry’s response to fast fashion, which tends to emphasise production volume over ecological concerns. Companies produce clothing on a made-to-order basis to prevent excess inventory and wasted materials.

This trend has a unique appeal because it often allows shoppers to customise their garments. Slow fashion will make a notable impact on the fashion industry in an age where consumers gravitate to personalisation.

Creating Sustainable Businesses in 2020

Businesses are catching up to consumers’ demands for green initiatives. People can’t afford to ignore rising global issues, and large companies create most of the pollution affecting the planet. Various industries are evaluating their business practices and brainstorming ways to earn a profit without harming the environment. Look for these trends in 2020 and beyond to see what you can do to revise your current strategies.


Emily Folk is a conservation and sustainability freelance writer. Check out her blog, Conservation Folks, or follow her on Twitter for the latest updates.